Pastor’s October Messenger
A Good Conscience in a life of Temptation
Lead us not into temptation, our Lord Jesus teaches us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. That is, Father in Heaven, Lead us away from temptation.
Our lives, the Large Catechism reminds us, are not lived without weakness and stumbling. When going over the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, the Large Catechism says,
Although we have acquired forgiveness and a good conscience, and have been wholly absolved, yet such is life that one stands today and falls tomorrow. Therefore, even though at present we are upright and stand before God with a good conscience, we must pray again that he will not allow us to fall and yield to trials and temptations.
So here’s the Christian life: it’s a life torn with temptation every day. Falls to temptation are met, though, not with excuses or attempts to justify our sin, but with repentance. We turn to hear our Lord speaking forgiveness, and there we find our joy. For we know that when we bear the Name of the Lord, we will suffer.
One of Satan’s greatest temptations is the deceit of having me expect that if I am really a Christian, then I can live without the pain of being tempted, that I can throw off my temptations as if it’s just a matter of making a decision, and I can do all this without suffering.
Jesus Knows Temptation
Jesus was tempted; Jesus suffered.
When Satan held out the temptation to change a stone into bread, Jesus really was tempted. When the Pharisees tempted Jesus to slander them in the same way they were slandering him, he was tempted. When the Apostles acted arrogantly, and he could’ve brought retribution right down on their heads, was he not tempted?
Do we think of our Lord Jesus like this? As a man who was tempted and who didn’t just walk away from the temptations as if they didn’t matter, but underwent temptation at the very heart of his being?
Life, to the Christian, will come no other way. The life lived without the suffering of temptation is not the life of the Christian, but the life of denial. The temptation will bring doubt to faith and horror to conscience.
Living with Temptation
We hear the Gospel, we’re clothed with the righteousness of Christ in Baptism, we eat and drink his Body and Blood, as he bids us do for the forgiveness of sins, we go to bed at night praying the Lord’s Prayer and the Evening Prayer, all is good, then, What happens? It seems to all fall apart, as if none of it really applied to us.
Then comes the devil,
says the Large Catechism,
who baits and badgers us on all sides, but especially exerts himself where the conscience and spiritual matters are at stake. His purpose is to make us scorn and despise both the Word and the works of God, to tear us away from faith, hope, and love, to draw us into unbelief, false security, and stubbornness, or, on the contrary, to drive us into despair, atheism, blasphemy, and countless other abominable sins.
Great and grievous, continues the Catechism, are these dangers and temptations, which every Christian must bear.
It’s a lie of the devil that the Christian can live without temptation if only that Christian’s faith is strong enough—for even our Lord Jesus lived with temptation.
It’s a lie of the devil, too, that the Christian can be tempted without the temptation tearing at his very soul, as if he can be tempted without suffering, as if the temptation is just a board game and we simply need to make the right moves—for even our Lord Jesus himself, when he was tempted, suffered.
And what comfort that is. Hebrews 2:18:
Because he himself has suffered when tempted, [Jesus] is able to help those who are being tempted.
[FROM THE EPISTLE OF PENTECOST 20]
Temptation is not a gently falling rain that comes to all people at the same time, in the same way. It can be more of a terrible cancer that has a thousand names and hits each person with different devastations. Every Christian is tempted differently, and the way the temptation strikes each of us may at times surge, at other times seem to dwindle. But the Christian is tempted, or he’s no Christian.
Comfort for the Tempted Christian
Do we undergo temptation? Jesus our Lord was tempted, too.
Do these temptations bring pain, even the deepest pain of doubting your faith? Of questioning your standing before God? Jesus is your Lord, and when he was tempted, he suffered.
Our comfort is not to get out of temptation; nor to think we can be tempted without suffering. Our comfort is, Jesus, who himself has suffered when tempted, and is therefore able to help those who are being tempted.
Our comfort is that though we are still in our sinful flesh, and though we will be tempted as long as we’re in sinful flesh—or else the flesh is not sinful—we nevertheless stand righteous before God our Father by virtue of Christ Jesus. This is our life of faith.
Our comfort is that our Lord Jesus himself partook of our same flesh and blood, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
Our comfort is that even though when we are tempted we should not sin, when we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the world. [1 John 2:1]
In the Name of Jesus,
February 05, 2019
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